PREGNANT PAUSE

— Remarks on the Corona Crisis —

 

We were already living in a general global crisis, but most people were only vaguely aware of it since it was manifested in a confusing array of particular crises — social, political, economic, environmental. Climate change is the most momentous of these crises, but it is so complicated and so gradual that it has been easy for most people to ignore it.

The corona crisis has been sudden, undeniable, and inescapable. It is also taking place in an unprecedented context.

If this crisis had taken place fifty or sixty years ago, we would have been totally at the mercy of the mass media, reading about it in newspapers or magazines or sitting in front of a radio or television passively absorbing whatever instructions and reassurances were broadcast by politicians or newscasters, with scarcely any opportunity to respond except perhaps to write a letter to the editor and hope that it got printed. Back then, governments could get away with things like the Gulf of Tonkin incident because it was months or years before the truth eventually got out. Continue reading

The development of social media during the last two decades has of course dramatically changed this. Although the mass media remain powerful, their monopolistic impact has been weakened and circumvented as more and more people have engaged in the new interactive means of communication. These new means were soon put to radical uses, such as rapidly exposing political lies and scandals that previously would have remained hidden, and they eventually played a crucial role in triggering and coordinating the Arab Spring and Occupy movements of 2011. A decade later, they have become routine for a large portion of the global population.

As a result, this is the first time in history that such a momentous event has taken place with virtually everyone on earth aware of it at the same time. And it is playing out while much of humanity is obliged to stay at home, where they can hardly avoid reflecting on the situation and sharing their reflections with others.

Crises always tend to expose social contradictions, but in this case, with the intense worldwide focus on each new development, the revelations have been particularly glaring.

The first and perhaps most startling one has been the rapid turnabout of governmental policies. Since the usual “market solutions” are obviously incapable of solving this crisis, governments are now feeling obliged to resort to massive implementation of the kinds of solutions they previously scorned as “unrealistic” or “utopian.” When anybody, rich or poor, native or foreign, can spread a deadly disease, anything less than free healthcare for all is self-evidently idiotic. When millions of businesses are closed and tens of millions of people are thrown out of work and have no prospect of finding a new job, the usual unemployment benefits are obviously hopelessly inadequate and policies like universal basic income become not just possible, but virtually unavoidable. As an Irish satirical website put it: “With private hospitals being taken into public ownership, increased welfare supports for the vast majority of the nation and a ban on evictions and the implementation of a rent freeze, Irish people are still trying to comprehend how they woke up today to find themselves in an idyllic socialist republic.”

Needless to say, our situation is actually far from idyllic. Although Ireland and many other countries have indeed implemented these kinds of emergency measures, when we look closer we find that the usual suspects are still in charge, with their usual priorities. Particularly in the United States, where the first to be rescued were the banks and corporations, as several trillion dollars were pumped into the financial markets without the slightest public debate. Then, when it became apparent that a more general bailout was needed, the vast majority of that bailout money also went to those same huge companies; much of the smaller amount designated for small businesses was snapped up by large chains before most of the actual small businesses got a penny; and the allotment for ordinary working families and unemployed people was a one-time payment that would scarcely cover two weeks of typical expenses. To add a twist of the knife, governors in several states have come up with the clever idea of prematurely reopening certain businesses, thereby making those workers ineligible for unemployment benefits if they refuse to endanger their lives.

The point of such bailouts is that certain industries are supposedly so essential that they need to be “saved.” But the fossil fuel industries don’t need to be saved, they need to be phased out as soon as possible. And there’s no reason to save the airlines, for example, because if they go bankrupt they can then be bought for pennies on the dollar by someone else (preferably the government) and restarted with the same workers, with the losses being borne by the previous owners. Yet these immensely wealthy and grossly polluting industries and others like them are getting hundreds of billions of dollars of “crisis relief.” But when it comes to things that lower- and middle-class people depend on, suddenly the message is: “We need to tighten our belts and not increase the federal debt.” Thus, Trump continues to push for a payroll tax cut (which would sabotage Social Security and Medicare) and he has threatened to veto any bailout that gives any assistance to the U.S. Postal Service (though UPS and Fedex have already been given billions of dollars of taxpayer money). The Republicans have tried for decades to bankrupt and privatize the Post Office — most blatantly in their 2006 act requiring the Post Office to fund its employees’ retirement benefits 75 years in advance (something no other entity, public or private, has ever been obliged to do) — but Trump’s particular vehemence on this topic at this time is due to his desire to prevent the possibility of mail-in voting in the coming election.

It shouldn’t take a genius to realize that the people at the lower end of the scale should be prioritized. Not only do billion-dollar corporations not need any more money, if they get more money most of it does not “trickle down” but is salted away in offshore tax shelters or used for stock buybacks. Whereas if each lower- and middle-class person gets, say, $2000 a month for the duration of the crisis (which would cost the government much less than the current bailouts of the super-rich), virtually all of that money will immediately be spent for basic needs, which will help at least some small businesses to remain in business, which will enable more people to keep their jobs, and so on. Small businesses also need immediate assistance (especially if they have been temporarily forced to suspend operation during the crisis) or they are likely to go bankrupt, in which case large businesses and banks will buy them up at bargain rates, thereby exacerbating the already extreme gap between a few mega-corporations at the top and everybody else at the bottom.

The corona crisis has exposed many national governments as criminally negligent, but most of them have at least attempted to deal with it in a somewhat serious manner once they realized the urgency of the situation. This has unfortunately not been the case in the United States, where Trump first declared that the whole thing was just a hoax that would soon blow over and that the death count would be “close to zero,” and then, when after doing virtually nothing for more than a month he was finally forced to admit that it was actually a serious crisis, announced that thanks to his brilliant leadership “only” around 100,000 or 200,000 Americans will die. Months into the pandemic there is still no national stay-at-home order, no national testing plan, no national procurement and distribution of life-saving medical supplies, and Trump continues to downplay the crisis in a frantic effort to open things up soon enough to revive his reelection chances.

Since his dillydallying has already been responsible for tens of thousands of additional deaths, and since he is also presiding over an economic chaos not seen in America since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Democrats should normally have no trouble in defeating him in November. But as it did four years ago, the Democratic Party establishment has demonstrated once again that it would rather risk losing to Trump with a business-as-usual corporate tool than risk winning with Bernie Sanders. Sanders’s programs (Medicare for All, Green New Deal, etc.) were already popular with most voters, and they have become even more so as the corona crisis has made the need for them more obvious. The fact that such commonsensical reforms are seen as radical is just a reflection of how cluelessly reactionary American politics has become by comparison with most of the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, since it soon became clear to just about everyone that Trump hasn’t the dimmest idea of how to deal with the corona crisis except to showcase his amazing medical knowledge and brag about his TV ratings, everyone else has been left to deal with it on their own. Though some state and local governments have helped, it should be noted that many of the earliest, most extensive, and most creative responses have been carried out by ordinary people on their own initiative — young people doing shopping for older and more vulnerable neighbors, people making and donating the protective masks that the governments neglected to stockpile, health professionals offering safety tips, tech-savvy people helping others to set up virtual meetings, parents sharing activities for kids, others donating to food banks, or crowdfunding to support popular small businesses, or forming support networks for prisoners, immigrants, homeless people, etc.

The crisis has vividly demonstrated the interconnectedness of people and countries all over the world, but it has also revealed, for those who weren’t already aware of it, that vulnerability is not equally shared. As always, those at the bottom bear the brunt — people in prisons or immigrant detention centers or living in crowded slums, people who can’t practice social distancing and who may not even have facilities to effectively wash their hands. While many of us are able to stay at home with only mild inconvenience, others are unable to remain at home (if they even have a home) or to share so many things via social media (if they even have a computer or a smartphone) because they are forced to continue working at “essential jobs,” under dangerous conditions and often for minimum wage and no benefits, in order to provide food, utilities, deliveries, and other services for the people who are staying home. (See Ian Alan Paul’s provocative analysis of the “domesticated/connected” sector and the “mobile/disposable” sector in The Corona Reboot.)

The “mobile/disposable” workers are usually too isolated and too vulnerable to dare to struggle (especially if they are undocumented), but because most of their jobs are indeed essential, they now have a potentially powerful leverage and it is not surprising that they are starting to use it. As the dangers and stresses build up, their patience has given way, beginning with widespread wildcat strikes in Italy in March, then spreading to several other countries. In the United States protests and strikes have broken out among workers at Amazon, Instacart, Walmart, McDonald’s, Uber, Fedex, grocery workers, garbage workers, auto workers, nursing home workers, agricultural workers, meat packers, bus drivers, truck drivers, and many others; nurses and other healthcare workers have protested medical equipment shortages; workers at GE have demanded repurposing jet engine factories to make ventilators; homeless families have occupied vacant buildings; rent strikes have been launched in several cities; and prisoners and detained immigrants are hunger-striking to expose their particularly unsafe conditions. Needless to say, all these struggles should be supported, and frontline workers should be first in line in any bailout.

After months of staying at home, everyone is naturally anxious to resume some degree of social life as soon as possible. There are legitimate debates about just how soon and under what conditions it is safest to do this. What is not legitimate is to deliberately ignore or deny the dangers simply so that businesses can resume and politicians can get reelected. The most grossly illuminating revelation of the whole crisis has been seeing pundits and politicians openly declare that it’s an acceptable trade-off for millions of people to die if that’s what it takes to “save the economy.” This admission of the system’s real priorities may backfire. People have been told all their lives that this economy is inevitable and indispensable, and that if they just give it free rein it will ultimately work for them. If they start seeing it for what it actually is (a con game that enables a tiny number of people to control everyone else in the world through their possession and manipulation of magic pieces of paper), they may conclude that it needs to be replaced, not saved. “Once society discovers that it depends on the economy, the economy in fact depends on the society” (Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle).

In the links list below, you can find articles going into detail about these and other aspects of the crisis. But at this point I’d like to step back and look at what I consider the most significant aspect of this whole situation: the experience of the shutdown itself.

This experience is so unprecedented, and it is changing so dramatically from day to day, that we still don’t quite know what to think of it. We keep secretly hoping that we’ll wake up and discover that it was just a nightmare, but each morning it’s still here. But as we have gradually gotten at least somewhat used to it, it is offering its own revelations.

Any pause may give us time to reflect on our lives and reassess our priorities, but knowing that everyone else is doing this at the same time gives these reflections a more collective focus. This pause is shaking us out of our usual habits and presumptions and giving each and all of us a rare chance to see our lives and our society in a fresh light. As each day brings fresh news, things seem to be speeding up; yet so many things have stopped or at least drastically slowed down, it also sometimes seems like everything is in slow motion; or as if we’d all been sleepwalking and were suddenly awakened — looking around at each other in amazement at the strange new reality, and how it contrasts with what we previously considered normal.

We come to realize how much we miss certain things, but also that there are things we don’t miss. Many people have noted (usually with a half-guilty hesitation, since they are of course quite aware of the devastation that is going on in many other people’s lives) that they personally are appreciating the experience in some regards. It’s much quieter, the skies are clearer, there’s scarcely any traffic, fish are returning to formerly polluted waterways, in some cities wild animals are venturing into the empty streets. There has been much joking about how those who like quiet contemplative living are hardly noticing any difference, in contrast to the frustrations and anxieties of those who are used to more gregarious lifestyles. In any case, whether they like it or not, millions of people are getting a crash course in cloistered living, with repeated daily schedules almost like monks in a monastery. They may continue to distract themselves with entertainments, but the reality keeps bringing them back to the present moment.

I suspect that the frantic urgency of various political leaders to get things “back to normal” as soon as possible is not only for the ostensible economic reasons, but also because they dimly sense that the longer this pause goes on, the more people will become detached from the addictive consumer pursuits of their previous lives and the more they will be open to exploring new possibilities.

One of the first things that many people have noticed is that the social distancing, however frustrating it may be in some regards, is ironically bringing people closer together in spirit. As people get a new appreciation of what others mean to them, they are sharing their thoughts and feelings more intently and more widely than ever — personally via phone calls and emails, collectively via social media.

Many of the things shared are of course pretty modest and ordinary — reassuring each other that we’re doing okay (or not), comparing notes about how to deal with this or that inconvenience, recommending films or music or books we’ve been bingeing on. But people are also coming up with memes, jokes, essays, poems, songs, satires, skits. However amateurish many of these things may be, the ensemble effect of thousands of these personal expressions being shared all over the globe is in some ways more moving than watching professional performances under ordinary circumstances.

The simplest and most common social-media posts have been memes: short stand-alone statements or captions added to illustrations. In contrast to traditional political slogans vehemently for or against something, these memes typically have a more deadpan tone with an ironical twist, leaving it up to the reader to recognize the contradictions being revealed.

It is interesting to compare these memes with the popular expressions of another crisis just over fifty years ago — the graffiti of the May 1968 revolt in France. There are some obvious differences in tone and context, but in both cases there’s a marvelous mix of humor and insight, anger and irony, outrage and imagination.

The 1968 crisis was intentionally provoked. A series of protests and street fights by thousands of young people in Paris inspired a wildcat general strike in which more than ten million workers occupied factories and workplaces all over France, shutting down the country for several weeks. When you look at the graffiti, you can sense that these people were actively making their own history. They were not merely protesting, they were exploring and experimenting and celebrating, and those graffiti were expressions of the joy and exuberance of their actions.

Our present situation resembles that earlier one in the sense that suddenly everything has come to a virtual standstill, leaving people to look around at each other and wonder: What next? But during May 1968, when the government had momentarily backed off (since it was powerless in the face of the general strike), that meant: What should we do next? (Should we take over this building? Should we restart this factory under our own control?) In our more passive situation it mostly means: What’s the government going to do next? What’s the latest news about the virus?

The memes being shared during the present crisis reflect this passivity. For the most part they express people’s reactions to finding themselves in an unpleasant situation that they did not choose, let alone provoke. Some frontline workers are striking, but only sporadically, out of desperation. Virtually everyone else is staying at home. They may denounce various outrages, or advocate various policies that might make things better, or root for politicians who they hope will implement such policies, but it’s from the sidelines. Participation is limited to things like signing petitions or sending donations, though there are occasional mentions of things that people might do once they are free to go out into the streets again.

At the same time, however, millions of people are using this pause to investigate and critique the system’s fiascos, and they are doing this at a time when practically everyone else in the world is obsessively focused on the same issues. I think this first ever global discussion about our society is potentially more important than the particular crisis that happened to trigger it.

It is admittedly a very confused and chaotic discussion, taking place within the even more chaotic background noise of billions of people’s ongoing individual concerns. But the point is that anyone can take part whenever they wish and potentially have some impact. They can post their own ideas, or if they see some other idea or article they agree with, they can email the link to their network of friends or share it on Facebook or other social media, and if other people agree that it is pertinent, they may in turn share it with their friends, and so on, and within a few days millions of people may be aware of it and able to further share it or adapt it or critique it.

This discussion is of course far from being a democratic decision-making process. Nothing is being decided beyond vague fluctuations of the popularity of this or that meme or idea. If a significant global movement comes out of this crisis, it will need to develop more rigorous ways to determine and coordinate the actions that the participants feel are appropriate, and it will obviously not want its communications to depend on privately owned and manipulated media platforms as they do now. But meanwhile we have to work with what we’ve got — on this terrain where virtually everyone in the world is already connected, however superficially. It’s already a big first step that everyone is able to personally weigh in instead of leaving things to leaders and celebrities. To go further, we need to be aware that this is happening, aware that what is going on within us and among us is potentially more promising than all the farcical political dramas we are watching so intently.

These ideas may seem extravagant, but they are hardly more so than the reality we are facing. The International Labor Organization has reported that nearly half of the global workforce is now at risk of losing its livelihoods. That amounts to 1.6 billion workers out of a total of 3.3 billion — a level of social disruption far more extreme than the Great Depression of the 1930s. I have no idea what will come of this, but I don’t think that 1.6 billion people are going to meekly curl up and die so that the ruling elite’s economic con game can continue to thrive. Something is going to give.

Whatever else happens, it is clear that nothing will ever be the same again. As so many people have noted, we can’t “return to normal.” That old normal was a mess, even if some people were in sufficiently comfortable circumstances that they could tell themselves that it wasn’t all that bad. In addition to all its other problems, it was already propelling us toward a global catastrophe far worse than what we are going through now.

Fortunately, I don’t think we could go back even if we wanted to. Too many people have now seen the deadly insanity of this society too clearly. Organizing a different kind of society — a creative, cooperative global community based on generously fulfilling the needs of everyone rather than protecting the exorbitant wealth and power of a tiny minority at the top — is not simply an ideal, it is now a practical necessity. (My own views on what such a society might look like and how we might get there are set out in The Joy of Revolution.)

The coronavirus is simply one side effect of climate change (one of the many new diseases being generated by deforestation and its resulting disruption of wildlife habitats). If we don’t act now, we will soon face other crises, including other pandemics, under much more unfavorable conditions, after climate change and its associated disasters have crashed our social and technological infrastructures.

The corona crisis and the climate change crisis are very different in timing and in scale. The first one is sudden and fast-moving — every day of delay means thousands of additional deaths. The second is far more gradual, but also far more momentous — every year of delay will probably mean millions of additional deaths, along with a miserable existence for those who survive under such dystopic conditions.

But this shock we are now experiencing is also an opportunity for a new beginning. Hopefully, we may one day look back and see it as the wake-up call that managed to bring humanity to its senses before it was too late.

BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS
May 17, 2020

An evening with Michael Albert Wednesday 10 Oct 2018 6:30 PM 8:30 Pearce Institute.

 If ever there was a figure dedicated to changing the world it is Michael Albert. And other folk on the left doing the same thing would need to wonder what they are doing if they have never heard of him. My own political development has been greatly influenced by Albert’s work. Along with people like Chomsky, Michael Albert has been a go-to when inspiration is low and are great connectors to others doing important and inspirational work. Albert lives for the movement and proves it not just by words but continually doing things. By trying things by developing ideas and if they don’t work trying something else.

His honesty through these endeavours, their effectiveness, trials, errors, successes, failures is the most important part of his contribution to the movement for change. You can almost think you know him because so much of what he speaks about resonates through the experiences that those engaged in grass roots struggle come up against constantly. He does not shy away from failure but uses it to drive coherent points that will strengthen the next part of the struggle. Continue reading

Failure is one of the most important parts of an activist life. We do not advance very far riding on highs, clutching to our successes. These things are important to have, but what gets us through failures and lifts us up when we are down is the knowledge that failure brings, knowledge that can be used and shaped into new and effective ideas. We do not do Michael Albert’s work a disservice to go on about failure because that is precisely where our strength lies. In learning what we need to do next.

So what do we do next. Do we continue along the same lines to see if something different happens? Continually protest till the government changes? Participatory Economics (Parecon) is part of Michael Albert’s lifework. A challenge to the present economic system. An attempt not to just alter it, to change it, but to replace it.

It would seem like an opportunity in the long term aims of the various struggles  around the place to maybe look at some alternative economic ideas. At the end of the day what keeps many of us in constant defence mode no matter what we struggle against is constantly fighting the economic system we struggle under. Albert is one of the few working on economics within grass roots struggle that looks to making real economic change for ordinary people. Read the book, Check him on You tube, Z Mag. Some good listening explaining Parecon here: http://citystrolls.com/parecon-listen/ 

Another aspect of left activism which Albert speaks to which should interest us all is the lack of vision and hope in many of where we are going collectively.

“I happen to see as part of my daily activity a large proportion of what is written by social change seekers, at least in English. If I actually read it all, every day, I would wind up in an asylum or an early grave. Too much negativity to endure. Too little aspiration to bear. Too little agenda to adopt.” 

So much of left energy is used up in mobilisation, speaking truth to power and describing how bad the war is, there is little left for organising, little left for vision. And particularly in taking these ideas into working class communities. 

“So what is a society? In the view we are slowly elaborating, a society is the immensely rich and varied combination of a “human center,” which is us with our consciousnesses, capacities, and agendas, plus an “institutional boundary” in the form of the roles that we must fulfill or avoid as a means to gaining various ends in society. Taken this way society is like an incredible mosaic with each multifaceted part affecting and even defining all the other multifaceted parts. And how do we judge a society? We decide on the broad kinds of outcomes and relations that we desire and appreciate, and we then ask: Does society’s human base and institutional boundary, or the base and boundary in each of its social spheres, further those preferred values or violate them? Given these simple insights, a reasonable next step for becoming better able to understand societies is to refine our means for understanding each of the four social spheres as a basis for saying more about how their aspects interrelate and about change and history.” From Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desired Society. 

So what are the social spheres, what are our desires for society. What ideas do we have to share with each other? Join the discussion.

This visit Michael will be talking about his new book Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desired Society (preface by Noam Chomsky and published by PM Press) and connecting it with what is going on in Scotland.

Tickets https://m.bpt.me/event/3620056 (It’s a pay what you want event or free)

The Billiard Room, Pearce Institute, 1st Floor Rear Staircase Wednesday 10 Oct 2018 6:30 PM 8:30

Book: https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=861

Michael Albert is an organiser, publisher, teacher, and author of over twenty books and hundreds of articles. He co-founded South End Press, Z Magazine, the Z Media Institute, ZNet, and various other projects, and works full time for Z Communications. He is the author, with Robin Hahnel, of the economic vision named Participatory Economics.

Event Hosted by Centre for Human Ecology

Listen To Albert on Parecon here

The value and life of a park – Public discussion on our parks

Kelvingrove barriers

Every so often we are, if you even know about it, consulted by Glasgow City Council, about what we want in our public parks. At the last consultation I don’t remember the public agreeing that we should have much more in the way of lock-out festivals and expensive, ticketed, gigs, taking up great swathes of our park space over the summer period when we need the park most. The problem with these consultations is is that they just seem like exercises in get consensus to allow more commercialisation of the park.

The problem is as we see it is. The public do not just need consulted in these matters, we need to be involved in the discussion that leads to decisions. And to be involved in the discussion we need also to be aware of all of the facts relating to not only to the decisions made in our behalf, but also the longer term impact that these decisions will have on our green space.

The value of parks needs to be equated by more than the shallow monetary value put on them and the superficial business orientated consultations which add up to the same thing. The city administration and public need to start taking these thing seriously and understand the real value that is attached to our city parks.

When somebody tells you “Nobody uses it” “The parks have to pay for themselves”  along with the sometimes pathetic excuses used to allow building on green space by developers and city administrators alike. We need to, (particularly our young who have most to lose,) be able to give them a cost benefit analysis on our green space and on how parks more than pay for themselves by:

Continue reading

Detoxing the environment

The production of oxygen

The removal of carbon dioxide and other toxins

Creates water drainage and anti-flooding

Wild life habitats.

Solar energy

Benefits for mental health.

The vistas and sense of space as a release from manic traffic.

A space to exist as a family unit. Reduces friction, stress and family break-ups.

Escape from city stress that leads to crime and violence.   

Building block for a sense of community

Autonomous space equality for everybody.

No commerce.

Safe for bikes, safe for football, amateur sports, productions, events, physical space 

Freedom of speech Speakers Corner. Tradition of protest, Rally’s

Last bastion of space for the poorest in our communities.

The countryside in the city

An excellent recipe for childhood education, physics and science in nature

Stagnant ponds could be rejuvenated by solar power fountains. And introducing the person on the street to science…

The park belongs to no one and to everyone.

Look at just one element of our parks, trees.

Evergreen trees can be used to reduce wind speed (and usefully, loss of heat from your home in the winter by as much as 10 to 50 percent.)

Trees absorb and block noise and reduce glare. A well placed tree can reduce noise by as much as 40 percent.

Fallen tree leaves can reduce soil temperature and soil moisture loss. Decaying leaves promote soil microorganism and provide nutrients for tree growth.

Trees help settle out and trap dust, pollen and smoke from the air. The dust level in the air can be as much as 75 percent lower on the sheltered side of the tree compared to the windward side.

Trees create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen.

One large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people.

A healthy tree can store 13 pounds of carbon each year – for an acre of trees that equals to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide.

Each gallon of gasoline burned produces almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

For every 10,000 miles you drive, it takes 7 trees to remove the amount of carbon dioxide produce if your car gets 40 miles per gallon (mpg); it will take 10 trees at 30 mpg; 15 trees at 20 mpg; 20 trees at 15 mpg; and 25 trees at 12 mpg)

Trees help reduce surface water run-off from storms, thus decreasing soil erosion and the accumulation of sediments in streams. They increase ground water recharge and reduce the number of potentially harmful chemicals transported to our streams.

An acre of trees absorb enough carbon dioxide in a year to equal the amount produced when you drive a car 26,000 miles.

Readers of City Strolls will have been listening to this over the last ten years. “The parks are in the process of being privatised” The problem is what citizens are unaware of the business developments that have been been happening over that time, untill they see the barriers going up around their park.

Recently Edinburgh city council deemed the hoardings closing off the view of Princess street gardens for a concert as being inappropriate. The hoardings in question were removed within an hour of the councils edict.

Maybe the start of resistance to the kind of  pay per view being enforced on the access of public spaces. Something we have seen increasingly across Glasgow parks and common spaces. With little or no objections that we are hearing about, from the administrators of our commons, parks and particularly in the lack of stewardship of our Common Good Fund.

So the thinking here is that most park users have a general idea of what the park is there for. Because what people use the park for hasn’t changed much over the last hundred years? Why do we need to be convinced “that the parks need to be fixed before they are broken” (Quote from a council parks survey) “The parks need to pay for themselves, and we are helping in this” (From events organiser with vested interests.)

Why are we constantly asked in consultations. “What do we need in our parks?” Most would answer “Access to our culture and heritage, toilets and a few parkies” But the questions are really designed by each preceding city administration to fulfil their own need through our parks. i.e. the quickest way to emptying our wallets to generate commercial profits.

So what we want to look at here is an event that looks at the cause and effect of the commercial developments being rolled out in our parks. How can we better understand how to challenge the inappropriate use of our parks

And Strategies for better stewardship of parks and green spaces to reverse the commercial decline. How to work towards a long term vision for our green space that serves users and can supersede decisions on park use made by short term administrations who may not have the public’s and park users best interests at heart.

This article relates to an event to be held in Kinning Park Complex at “Parks for people” How to become involved in the discussion and understanding the importance of green space in our lives, economically, physiologically, health wise, environmentally, politically, historically and creatively.

Join us for a debate  at Kinning Park Complex on what our parks are for. (dates will be poster soon)

Times and Speakers to be confirmed. If you want to help out contact or join list.

 

Radical Imagination/Common Good Awareness Project/Tardis

Where is the left I want to join it?

Thoughts on: The reinvigorating of the common dream and the struggle for a broader collective social conscience.

“Enough of the perfection of differences! We ought to be building bridges.” Todd Gitlin

In Gitlin’s book. The Twilight Of The Common Dream he explains this “obsession with group differences” as the (unintended) legacy of the progressive social movements of the 1960’s, which operated on the principle of separate organization on behalf of distinct interests, rather than a universal principle of equality.’ ENotes Continue reading

There can be no common ground, if nobody can hear.

While all around us we see the PR departments of both, political parties and corporations, the plausibility mechanisms that keep the citizen idle, or the deflection of their energies guided up blind alleys. Meanwhile at the opposite end others are shouting into an empty tube nobody can hear. Folk can’t hear, support, or oppose, the particular issue being projected into a vacuum. A vacuum of isolationist left wing media or the solitary confinement of single issue politics.

Part of the above mentioned unintended legacy, knowingly or unknowingly has developed the overarching idea of divide, sub divide and rule. Creating a movement that sometimes isn’t capable of moving past its own rhetoric, no matter how articulate the arguments or evidence presented to the contrary.

Each group or political persuasion has its own passages, catch words, phrases and style of delivery. When we hear these triggers we learn to process and categorise what we are hearing. A switch in the brain filters and channels information, or not, depending on if the style of delivery appeals to us, not thinking about what we actually hear.

We all do it to a greater or lesser extent. We don’t listen. We have a tendency to pick up or spot our differences, before, or sometimes completely ignore, what we could have in common with others. The reluctance to stand back and allow a uncontroversial good idea to go forward, until we know if we agree with the philosophy and ideological makeup of whoever suggests it.

This is not a great tactic for going forward. We can not all be right all of the time.

To take up a place in the left these days, or what you imagine to be the left, can be a lonely existence, unless one is connected to a club, topical group, or ideologically driven set of tactics and actions. The edges have become so defined and watertight around many groupings, that any idea of overarching principals that could strengthen the structure of a wider and more powerful movement that will be needed to challenge neoliberalism, seems impossible.

Yet the complete opposite is true. It is all possible. But it will take a rewinding of history to unravel the neoliberal project started in the 1960 to Balkanise the left into groups of single issue politics that Gitlin describes in his book. ‘The Twilight of the common dream’. A dream that the inhumanity in the world could be stopped and replace by less harmful human endeavours. As the 60s song goes.

‘C’mon people smile on your brother everybody get together try to love one another right now.’

Love for ones fellow human beings was a strong element of the movement back then. (although we still struggled with the patriarchy ). Love a much derided notion then by the establishment and even now as a flakey hippy thing. like “All you need is love”.

It is not all you need. But what is the point of anything without it?

Look what is happening to our world through the lack of it. That is really what the 60s revolution was founded on. Love for people. And that is what made it so dangerous. A common dream for humanity. A simple basic concept to understand that underpinned a movement and the purpose of its actions. As democracy can not exist under capitalism neither can some kinds of love. Sounds naive, maybe.

It is worth thinking about, that the neoliberal counter revolution, that set out to destroy the 60s outbreak of democracy, was mostly based on the encouragement of love; the love of oneself. The self development of me, upwardly mobil; the entrepreneurial spirit, positive thinking, my body is a temple. The hippies and their counter alternatives were vilified, as unclean, a danger to society, were related more in the corporate media to Charles Manson, weird sects, than the universal call for peace, love and freedom for all.

In the States our love was met by Cointelpro, set into action by the state, fire bombing and murdering, with the objective to destroy any trace of socialist organising across the US. Big money started to infiltrate the environmental movement. Saving the environment became more about greenwash and changing one set of consumables for a more eco friendly set. The movement was broken into more manageable assemblages. We learned or were enticed to become less independent. Corporate money started to drive the movement and guide it away from dangerous paths. Our movement became more about stopping and less about replacing. We became consumed in technology, rather than what it could do to take us forward. Our young activists starts to be consumed by funding managers and conforming to pleasing them. Our organisations became more about the organisation, rather than those they were set out to support. The coming together became the drifting apart, sectarianism, life style, self gratification, careers, individualism and all of the other isms consumed us.

We lost the common dream, the love for all, that kept us on our path. The propaganda that vilified that dream and that love, is because that is what the elites feared most. They worked to transfer our love for other human beings, to the love of things and personalities. And working class solidarity to inward working class competition. At this end of the pond we had Thatcher to thank for delivering the neoliberal project to these shores, which reinvigorated and exposed the latent hate the upper classes always had for ordinary people anyway and helped to spread that hate amongst them. A fact that is patently evident in the right wing policies that have unfolded since, to keep people apart and isolated.

People are sick to their back teeth with it. Sick with consumption; consuming fake news, fake politics, fake economics, terrible jobs, high rents, poison food, trash TV, the advertising industry, war and a planet that is exhausted from the demands we are putting on it. A world slipping away from its humanitarian roots. And we can’t buy our way back into it.

The next revolution as will be about giving up things not acquiring more. A bit in common like the last one. Only this time, even more, we will need to prove our love for human kind by action. But we also will need to listen more before we decide what form that action will take. The 60s revolution was being destroyed before it was fully born. We are in danger of repeating the same mistakes again if the positive energy that is building up around us is destroyed by in-fighting, ego, fake news and the inability to listen in order to find that which connects us.

Remember we were all born of a small group of primates in Africa, and we are all female until hormonal changes in the womb decide on the sex and sexuality to be born. Therefor we are all brothers and sisters, irrespective of faith or origin. As human beings we all have the same communal goals and this is what should connect us, not segregation into isms. Neither are we commodities to be described, ordered and categorised for the sake of political gains or profit margins. We are human beings and that should be our primary concern – Our humanity for each other should be the driver, our love for life and a rebuilding of a common dream, the vehicle to get us out of the madness and the left back on track.

Peace.

The Radical Imagination Project.

  

May Day on the Green 2017

A group of us are trying to bring May Day back to the Green and make it
what it was meant to be, a family day, a fun day, a day to celebrate the
solidarity of the working class. Continue reading

May Day event at Free Wheel North. Monday May 1st from 2:00. Bringing
May Day back to the green. The workers day and celebration of spring,
out in the open where it belongs.

It will be a day to meet up with friends and comrades and have a
friendly afternoon. May Day belongs to the people, and belongs outside.

Join us at Free Wheel North on 1st of May 2:00

See website for details: Updates for activities will be posted as they
come in.

https://maydayglasgow2017.wordpress.com/

From an activist notebook

The term activist is a bit odd as it implies everybody else is inactive, which is far from the case. But for this we will imagine an activist as someone engaged in public life, in political life, is interested in things outside of the private. Should that not be everybody? Is there such a thing as inactivism? After all, to do nothing has as big an impact on things as whatever else happens.

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Today maybe more than ever. So what is meant by activist, or activism, here is a marker to describe those odd people, to varying extents, that have some kind of political obsession. I guess what is meant by politics here needs some clarification to. Politics, in this sense, is what we do together; by discussing things, coming up with ideas consensually, by inclusion and by keeping as many people happy as possible, before making final decisions and acting on them. Politics is the act of engaging in public life. This description for the purposes here, should not be confused with “party politics”, which is something completely different.

So what is activism here, in terms of what has being described above? Well specifically, activities towards implementing ideas that will force institutional change. The banking institutions; corporate institutions, state institutions and the powerful conglomerates, who for profit, ensure that many live in poverty. This is the high end of what needs to be achieved. If we can understand a bit about what is going on up there, we can understand what we need to do down here. This is the bit, apart from the obsessed, where peoples eyes start to glaze over. Attempting to explain to folk who are politically disengaged for many reasons, what is going on up there, in the corporate stratosphere . All they can see is the mad rush of their lives flashing past. All the things they need to do, or would rather think about, apart from, (to them) the abstract and intimidating world of the “activist”. What’s this got to do with me?  A question constantly posed and rarely answered.

The general problem with the activist, (self included) is that they usually know a lot more about what is going on up there, than they do about what is going on down here. This isn’t a criticism of the need for better understanding, more a question of context, more a question of what is needed at this point in time. The question is not only about getting folk away from the television, consumerism and private life into public life, into the community, but also about getting the activist away from academia, social media, esoteric groups, the protest culture and the constant defense of their own righteous position, into the same community. We all need to have things we enjoy doing and that interests us. The point is. If that is all that we are doing, no matter how important we feel it is, we also need to ask. Who, and what purpose is it serving?

“If you look over the developments in recent years, there’s been severe retrogression on economic and political issues, but considerable progress on cultural and social issues.” Noam Chomsky

In other words we are making much progress in cultural change and around social issues. There are a mass of wonderful things going on. But there are two things. Where is the infrastructure work growing out of this progress that will be powerful enough to challenge institutional power, i.e. the banks? Where is the work going on to engage the many ordinary folk we will need to raise to that challenge? In the world of the activist, we can usually fill rooms to listen to and watch how others, in other countries build and raise the kind of awareness and solidarity needed to challenge corporate power. Which is ok in itself. But in our own communities the same handful of folk will turn up when the problem is our own social housing, or such like, that is at stake. Sure there is commendable stuff going on on the ground and much to admire that we should be thankful for.  But it is enough to shift the might of the powerful? To hurt as Michael Albert says, what they hold dear? That will take a massive mind shift in the population, but will still have more to do with practicalities than philosophy. A bit less peer to peering on the network and a bit more education to where it is needed most. By us getting out more, by showing up, by being active, in all the right places.

The following offers some ideas for going forward. Yet again not much is mentioned of building grass roots networks that relate to peoples day to day lives. Maybe that could be part of a shared program?

People for a Shared Program
People for a Shared Program is a place to explore, develop and organise around left programmatic ideas. http://www.sharedprogram.org/#!faq/ryp9j

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